Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Priest's Dying Declaration In Prison

By Ralph Cipriano

The night before Father Charles Engelhardt died, a fellow inmate claims,  the priest gave a dying declaration:

"Paul, I do not feel well. Please understand that I am an innocent man, who was wrongly convicted."

On Dec. 22, the inmate, Paul H. Eline, a former Temple Law student, filed as an intervenor with the state Superior Court in the case of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Charles Engelhardt, appellant.

 In his application for third party intervention, Eline wrote that the matters he was bringing to the court's attention were "critical and constitute 'extraordinary circumstances' " that should be made part of the record.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Revenge Of The Norcrosses

Jimmy Kempski/Photo: Thomas Carroll
By Ralph Cipriano

The big black billboard on the Walt Whitman Bridge promotes the new sportswriter for "All Birds. No Bull. With Jimmy Kempski."

That's the same Jimmy Kempski who used to be an Eagles blogger for He jumped ship to join the rival media startup brought to you by George E. Norcross III and his daughter Lexie.

Just seven months after they lost the court-ordered auction of Interstate General Media [IGM] -- the parent company that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and -- the Norcrosses are back on the local media stage playing with house money.

Norcross, the Democratic boss of South Jersey, and two business partners, William P. Hankowsky and Joseph E. Buckelew, had invested a total of $35 million in IGM. The Norcross ownership faction walked away from the May 27th auction with $41.7 million after expenses; a net profit of $6.7 million. No wonder the ads for brag that the new venture is a "well-funded media startup serving the Philadelphia and South Jersey region."

It's a stark contrast between media rivals. Over at, George's daughter Lexie, the new managing director, is busy hiring. But at rival IGM,  owned by Norcross's former business partner, H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, they're laying off 21 senior employees in a new round of buyouts that's the subject of a grievance filed by the Newspaper Guild.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Galati Asks For Court-Appointed Lawyer

By George Anastasia

Ron Galati's broke.

The South Philadelphia auto body shop owner accused to orchestrating a $5 million insurance  scam told a judge this morning that he does not have the money to pay for a lawyer in either of the two pending criminal trials he is facing in Common Pleas Court.

"Exactly right," Galati said when Judge Jeffrey Minehart asked if he could not afford to hire an attorney for either the insurance fraud conspiracy case or a murder-for-hire case in which he is a defendant.

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Holtz said her office believes Galati has the financial ability to retain private counsel.

"He may not be able to afford the best attorney in the land," Holtz said during a brief hearing before Minehart. But she said her office believes Galati has assets and that "the City of Philadelphia and the taxpayers of Philadelphia should not be paying" his legal bills.

Minehart set a Jan. 8 hearing date on the financial question. Holtz said her office would offer evidence showing that Galati can afford an attorney.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Billy Goes Viral

The new media superstar
By Ralph Cipriano

The improbable story of "Billy Doe," the former Philadelphia altar boy who claimed he was raped by a couple of priests and a Catholic school teacher, has gone viral.

Rolling Stone opened the door by apologizing for the improbable story it ran about "Jackie," the University of Virginia freshman who claimed she was raped by seven guys at a fraternity party.

Big Trial's contribution to the unfolding scandal was to point out that before they fell for Jackie's story, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone bought Billy's bogus tale. In a classic case of the media turning on itself, the Big Trial post about Billy and Rolling Stone attracted 50,000 hits to this website in two days.

The local scandal about Billy, ignored by the hometown press, was suddenly hot news to The Daily Caller, and a bunch of websites such as,, and, Even The Daily Mail, the British national newspaper, weighed in with a story about Billy.

And we're not done yet. The Washington Post and Newsweek are hot on the trail as well. Over at the District Attorney's office, our stonewalling D.A. Seth Williams is probably hoping he gets through this news cycle unscathed. Seth, however, does have a distant but curious link to Rolling Stone's Billy story that has attracted the curiosity of the national media.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Before Rolling Stone Ran With Jackie's Story They Fell for Billy's

Sabrina Rubin Erdely
By Ralph Cipriano

Before a writer for Rolling Stone ran with an alleged gang-rape story told by a student named "Jackie," she bought an alleged multiple-rape story told by a former altar boy named "Billy."

On Nov. 19th, Rolling Stone published an article claiming that "Jackie," a student at the University of Virginia, had been allegedly gang-raped by seven men at a fraternity party. ["A Rape on Campus; A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice At UVA."]

The fraternity was tried in the media and found guilty. Bricks were thrown through the windows of the frat house, the cops in Charlottesville were called in to investigate, and the university president shut down all fraternity and sorority events on campus.

Then, The Washington Post, citing factual discrepancies, cast doubt on the victim's story. Rolling Stone rolled over almost immediately, issuing an apology that said their trust in Jackie had been "misplaced."

There's lots of irony here folks for readers of this blog. The writer of the story in question, Rolling Stone contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely, is from Philadelphia. Before she ran with Jackie's story, she fell for a story told by a former altar boy dubbed "Billy Doe" by a grand jury.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Galati's Lawyer Bows Out

By George Anastasia

Wannabe wiseguy Ron Galati, the South Philadelphia auto body shop owner with a Godfather fixation, wants to keep fighting. But it looks like he'll have to do battle without the services of topnotch criminal defense attorney Anthony Voci Jr.

Voci has filed motions to withdraw as Galati's attorney in a pending murder-for-hire case and a massive insurance fraud conspiracy case. Both are listed for trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court.

"My client does not have sufficient funds to allow me to continue," Voci said in a brief comment today when asked about the withdrawal motions. Voci, a former Assistant District Attorney, represented Galati in another murder-for-hire case in federal court in Camden earlier this year.

In that case, Galati was convicted of hiring two hitmen to murder the boyfriend of his estranged daughter. The boyfriend survived the hit and was one of several key witnesses. The two hitmen, a third conspirator and Galati's daughter Tiffany also took the stand for the government.